The term ‘poker’ is often used interchangeably with ‘blackjack’ and ‘roulette’, but it actually refers to a variety of different games played with cards. While poker is mostly associated with playing cards, there are also live poker leagues where professional gamblers compete for real money. Let’s explore the meaning of those various poker terms so you can get a better understanding of what is entailed in placing a wager on whether or not a given card is going to be ‘high’ or ‘low’ in value.
The term ‘poker variance’ is used to describe the disparity in the odds of winning at different tables. For instance, let’s say you’re playing in a penny poker game where the maximum bet is a penny. The chances of you winning at this table are very low, there’s very little variance in this type of game. The house always wins, and you can’t beat that. On the other hand, there is an $11 bet sport game where the odds of you winning vary greatly. In this type of game, you would be putting your money on a single bet for several hours or days; there is a lot of room for error, and that’s what makes this game interesting. Another great example are ‘hold’em’ games, where participants are betting on the outcome of a round of poker (five-card draw or seven-card stud). Even in these simple games, there is a wide discrepancy in the odds of you winning or losing, which makes them very interesting to wager on.
High / Low
The meaning of ‘high’ and ‘low’ when used in connection with cards is rather straightforward: high-value cards are those ranks/spades, faces, or diamonds that are valued at ten points or more. Aces are valued at eleven points, and the queen is valued at one point. If you’re playing with jokers, then they’re considered to have the value of ten points apiece. Low-value cards are those ranks/spades, faces, or diamonds that are valued at five points or less. In terms of blackjack and roulette, high cards are those that increase your odds of beating the casino, and low cards are ones that decrease your odds of winning. It is also possible to have a card that is somewhere in the middle, with neither high nor low value. However, in most card games the middle-of-the-road values are considered poor, while higher and lower values are very useful and make up the bulk of the cards in a deck.
When a card is deemed to be ‘valueless’, it simply means that it has no value. This can happen in a few different ways. The most common way is when a hole card (fourth card from the bottom of a deck) is turned up when the deck is shuffled. In a typical 52-card deck, there are only four cards with no value: the joker, the four of clubs, the four of spades, and the ten of diamonds. In a 32-card deck, there are five valueless cards: the joker, the four of clubs, the four of spades, the seven of hearts, and the ten of diamonds. When a card is found to be valueless, the dealer usually ‘flushes’ the card, meaning he discards it and starts over. This is usually a good thing for the house, as it prevents the possibility of someone building a winning streak based on cards with no value.
When cards are said to be ‘straight’, that simply means that they are aligned in a vertical or horizontal fashion. For example, in a deck of playing cards, the queen, king, and jack are considered ‘straight’, as they are all perfectly aligned. Similarly, in a game of Scrabble, letters like ‘x’, ‘y’, and ‘z’ are considered straight in that they are the same height as the other letters. When cards are said to be ‘straight’, it is most often a good thing, as that makes it easier for the house to keep track of who is winning and who is losing. However, in some games, like snake and ladders, it is undesirable to have all your cards be straight. In that case, you would want some cards to be folded or crumpled, as it makes it more difficult to keep track of who has what and who is where. In terms of blackjack and roulette, all vertical and horizontal alignments are considered ‘straight’ (a full house is considered straight, as are four of a kind).
Folded / Crumpled
When cards are ‘folded’, that simply means that they have been physically sorted and arranged in a specific way. In English, cards are often said to be ‘in’, ‘on’, or ‘at’ the table. In a typical 52-card deck, there are 32 cards that are folded: four from each of the four suits (spades, hearts, diamonds, and clubs) and the ten of hearts. The four of clubs is said to be folded, as it has been sorted and arranged into fours. In a 32-card deck, there are 16 cards that are folded: two from each of the four suits (spades, hearts, diamonds, and clubs) and the ten of hearts. The ten of spades is folded, as it has been arranged into ten-card stacks; likewise, the four of clubs is folded, as it has been arranged into four-card stacks. When cards are folded, it is usually a sign that the person doing the folding is either very organized or very frustrated. If you’re playing in an unorganized way and your cards are not already folded, it might be a good idea to do so now, as it makes it easier for the dealer to keep track of who is winning and who is losing. It is also a good idea to ‘crumple’ cards, meaning to press them tightly together so they take on the appearance of a ball of tangled paper. The advantage of doing this is that it makes it more difficult to tell where one card fits next to the other, so if the game is ever stopped mid-session for any reason (like a fire alarm or police raid), you’ll have a better chance of remembering where you left off. In terms of blackjack and roulette, all folded and crumpled cards are added to the score at the end of the session. When folding or crumpling cards, always do so in the same way, so you can tell which deck you’re playing with at the end. Remember: it’s poor form to throw away cards in any way, shape, or form, so make sure your cards are always pristine.
Winnings / Losings
‘Winnings’ are those monetary rewards or penalties the house earns from a given wager. In a typical game of poker, if someone wins, the pot (the total amount of money wagered) is divided evenly among the players. Let’s say there is a $2 pot and you beat the dealer at a pair of hands (two pairs, or four of a kind), you would receive $200. Let’s say you are dealt a pair of kings and lose, the pot would then be divvied up among the other players. It’s a win-win for everyone! When you’re playing in a card room, the term ‘winnings’ and ‘losses’ are usually used interchangeably, and it is standard practice to always call your wins ‘losses’ and your losses ‘winnings’. However, it is not always correct to do so, as there are instances where you might win $100 and lose $50, which would make the overall result a net loss. When used in this fashion, the term ‘losses’ is most often applied only to those earnings that you lose from the previous hand. The ‘losses’ from the previous hand are then combined with the ‘winnings’ from the current hand to create your total earnings for the session.